There are so many stories and "old wives' tales" out there that it's hard to decipher which are true and which aren't. This is the case with some diseases, as well. One condition that seems to have countless myths and misconceptions attached to it is Lyme disease. These falsehoods range from where the disease is prevalent to treatment and how to be cured. Let's address these myths and get down to the facts, but first let's find out what Lyme disease is.

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the spirochete (any spiral-shaped bacteria) Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick; however, some recent studies have shown that it may also be transmitted by mosquitoes. The carriers of the bacteria are the deer ticks, aka the black-legged tick and the western black-legged ticks.

The disease affects multiple areas of the body and is known as "The Great Imitator" because it mimics various other diseases such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, depression, and more which often leads to a misdiagnosis. The symptoms of Lyme disease include,

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Neck stiffness
  • Chills/Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Joint/tendon pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Skin rash around the tick bite
  • Nerve problems (in advanced state)
  • Arthritis (in advanced state)
  • Tingling/numbness (in advanced state)
  • Facial paralysis (in advanced state)

Myth 1: Lyme Disease Doesn't Exist on the West Coast

A common misconception among many individuals, including health care professionals, is that Lyme disease is only on the east coast of the United States. Actually, Lyme disease has been found on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. This means that it is possible to get Lyme disease even in a big west coast city like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and others.

One of the ticks that can transmit the bacteria is the western black-legged tick (not all ticks are infected). These ticks are extremely prevalent in California and along west coast, even reaching into parts of Canada. They tend to feed during the late winter and continue in to summer. This means that the young will feed during the spring and summer (right when we are out there doing our hot weather activities).

Myth 2: No Rash Means No Lyme

It is true that the well-know "bulls-eye" rash is an indication of Lyme disease, but not every person gets the rash. This rash may only appear in about half of the cases. Also, it's one of those instances of "Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there." Sometimes the rash can be in an obscure place and out of view, like the scalp for example. It may even show up somewhere other than where the tick was attached. So even if you don't see the bulls-eye, you should still consider Lyme if you are experiencing the above listed symptoms. Also, just because you don't remember being bitten doesn't mean it didn't happen. Fewer than 50% of Lyme patients remember being bitten or seeing a rash.

Myth 3: Two Weeks of Treatment and You're All Better

Many people believe that after a quick round of antibiotics they are cured and will live symptom-free lives. Avril Lavigne, who recently discovered she has Lyme, has fallen into this trap. She stated that she was originally misdiagnosed with dehydration and exhaustion. Avril informed her fans last year that she wasn't feeling well and has recently explained that she has been bed ridden and felt very lethargic for a while. She explained that she was diagnosed with Lyme and is feeling a lot better. However, it is common to feel better after a round of antibiotics, but that doesn't mean you are cured. Treatment for the condition can be challenging because the bacteria can change forms making it resistant to standard treatment.

In addition, Lyme disease is rarely seen by itself. It usually has various co-infections such as Babesia, ehrlichiosis, chlamydia pneumonia, mycoplasma pneumonia, and candida. As if these weren't bad enough, Lyme also lowers the immune system leaving the body susceptible to other viruses such as Epstein Barr, HHV-6, and more. The best course of action for treating this disease is a multi-system approach which includes antibiotics to attack the Lyme bacteria at all stages, immune modulators, and other medications to increase the effectiveness of the antibiotics. Thankfully proper treatment isn't just available on the east coast. There are a few Lyme doctors (LLMDs) throughout the west coast, in major cities like Los Angeles that can address these concerns. Unfortunately, there is no available test to conclude that the disease has been cured after treatment.

So remember, don't believe everything you hear! You can contract Lyme disease on the west coast, you can have it even if you don't have the rash or can't remember being bitten, and just because you underwent a few weeks of antibiotics doesn't mean you're cured. What other myths have you heard about Lyme disease? Share them below!

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